by Jess Wason ’11
Even after graduating and working for a prominent multinational company, Jeremy Kacuba ’00 felt incomplete and yearned for a different kind of experience.
“So I decided to do the Ironman,” he says with a laugh.
Not once, not twice, but three times Jeremy completed the famous triathlon. “After the last time,” he says, “I thought it was time to get off my sabbatical and go back to work!”
Jeremy worked for General Mills before landing his current position with the Lance Inc. snack company in Charlotte, N.C., where he is a plant manager for a $400 million facility.
“I basically have a third of the company, and to have that responsibility as a 30-year-old is incredible,” he says.
Jeremy began his post-college career with Proctor & Gamble, which recruits many Lafayette students. “It was a good feeling to know that I was going to come out of college with a job,” he recalls. “It was even better when I found out that my roommate and I would be working for the same company.”
A versatile student Lafayette, Jeremy majored in mechanical engineering and played varsity baseball.
“My favorite part about being a mechanical engineer was the wide variety of classes offered,” he says. He conducted research as an EXCEL Scholar with Steve Nesbit, professor of mechanical engineering. “We did bio-mechanical designs for the U.S. Golf Association, and it was an incredible experience,” he said. “I guess my only qualm was that I ended up spending more time in the lab than on the golf course.”
Through his management roles at large companies, Jeremy has learned the importance of being a good leader. “When you are in a position of leadership, everyone in your organization will make judgments based on the small interactions they have with you,” he says.
In only his second month at Lance, Jeremy came in on a weekend to do maintenance work with a 40-year veteran of the plant who was known for being grumpy with the management team. After they worked together all day, the man gave Jeremy some humbling information.
“He told me I’d replaced a good friend of his who’d been with the company for years, so he’d planned to treat me like dirt until he retired — ouch!” Jeremy recalls. “But then he told me that a few of my decisions and the interactions he’d witnessed had made him start to respect and even like me, and after putting in grunt work with him all day, I’d proven my character to him. He said he trusted me and the direction I was taking the plant, and would do anything to help me.”
Jeremy has this advice for students who find themselves in leadership roles while at Lafayette and after graduation: “Know that it is character that will win or lose the day, and there are many ways in which people will look to make that judgment. Don’t be afraid to do the hard work that might make the future a whole lot easier.”